The 7 Best Laptops for Travel of 2023

The tried-and-true Apple MacBook Air M1 is our top pick.

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Best Laptops for Travel

Travel & Leisure / David Hattan

As you rifle through your carry-on, trying to figure out why on earth it’s so darn heavy, it dawns on you: Your outdated laptop was meant to stay in your lap…at home! And while it still may be performing like a champ even after a few bumps and bruises, it may be time for an upgrade, if for no other reason than to lighten your load while traveling.  

Apple fanatics are going to love our top pick: the MacBook Air M1, which weighs in at less than three pounds and has a battery life of up to 18 hours. Plus, it’ll fit nicely into most travel backpacks and messenger bags as you move about your day. Our full list includes options that are even lighter in weight (how does 1.14 pounds sound?), two-in-one designs that eliminate the need for traveling with both a laptop and tablet, and budget-friendly models, too.

Best Overall

Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (M1, 2020)

4.9
Apple MacBook Air M1

Amazon

Why We Love It: We love its all-day battery life, slim profile, and lifelike Retina color display — plus it features a silent, fanless design.

What to Consider: It only has two USB-C ports and a lower-quality 720p webcam.

Apple fanatics who aren’t chained to a desk all day have been relying on the highly portable MacBook Air M1 since it debuted in 2020 — and it’s still the best performer for the price tag (now made even more affordable thanks to the newer MacBook Air M2, which came on the scene in 2022). This entry-level computer is still a favorite because of its reliable and fast performance; it wakes up instantly from sleep mode and runs all your go-to apps at warp speed. 

Whether you’re watching movies on a flight or digging into a color-coded spreadsheet, the display will be razor-sharp and vibrant, thanks to the Retina display and wider palette of colors. This laptop handles FaceTime calls and video conferences like a champ and the Touch ID makes everything from buying an app to shopping online with Apple Pay a one-touch move. 

Price at time of publish: from $999

Display Size: 13.3 inch | Weight: 2.8 pounds | Operating System: macOS | Battery Life: up to 18 hours | Storage: up to 2TB | RAM: up to 16GB

Best Budget

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2

Amazon


Why We Love It: It’s a wallet-friendly laptop that should meet anyone’s basic needs.

What to Consider: There’s only one USB-A port and one USB-C port (both on the same side), and you’ll have to pay extra for the fingerprint reader and more than 4GB of memory.

Improving upon its earlier version with an upgraded HD webcam and more sustainable design, the Surface Laptop Go 2 has an attractive starting price tag and it’s the lightest Surface laptop. It’s ideal for everyday tasks and boasts a 3:2 aspect ratio PixelSense touchscreen, which gives you plenty of vertical screen real estate. Plus, it comes in colors that seem even more fun on the go, including an Ice Blue, Sandstone, and Sage aside from the more expected Platinum. The keyboard and trackpad are comfortable, allowing you to get your work done with ease (though it's important to note that there’s no keyboard backlight). 

Price at time of publish: from $600

Display Size: 12.4 inch | Weight: 2.48 pounds | Operating System: Windows 11 Home | Battery Life: up to 13.5 hours | Storage: 128GB or 256GB | RAM: 4GB or 8GB

Best 2-in-1

Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 2-in-1 14" Touchscreen Laptop

Lenovo Yoga 9i

Amazon


Why We Love It: Between the stunning OLED screen, 1080p webcam, and Bowers & Wilkins speaker system with two subwoofers on the sides, this high-end 2-in-1 was built to impress.

What to Consider: Even the entry-level version is on the higher end pricewise.

Can’t decide if you need a laptop or a tablet? Never make the choice again after investing in the dual-purpose Lenovo Yoga 9i. The large, 14-inch OLED screen offers impressive color and clarity and the 12th generation Intel Core i7 processor will wow you with its responsiveness. You won’t make compromises on memory either, thanks to the 16GB system built for serious multitasking. And wait until you see the 360-degree flip-and-fold design (laptop, tablet, tent, and stand) that rises to any occasion. It comes with a Lenovo Precision Pen 2 and 14-inch sleeve for protection as you move about your day.

Price at time of publish: from $1,500

Display Size: 14 inches | Weight: 3.08 pounds | Operating System: Windows 11 Home  | Battery Life: up to 10.5 hours | Storage: 512GB | RAM: 16GB

Most Lightweight

Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Chromebook 11.6-Inch Laptop

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Why We Love It: This light-as-a-feather, 2-in-1 Chromebook has a detachable keyboard and near-borderless touchscreen — and you certainly can’t beat the price.

What to Consider: There’s no headphone jack, a stylus pen is sold separately, and performance may lag a bit if you try to do too many things at once.  

It’s easy to feel like our technology is weighing us down these days, so take a load off your shoulders with the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3. This Chromebook ticks a lot of desirable boxes all at once: it’s extremely lightweight at just over one pound, it’s a two-in-one design, and it’s budget-friendly — what more could you ask for? How about battery life that’ll get you through your workday, two USB-C ports, multi-position adjustability, and a detachable keyboard?Think of this as a tablet that moonlights as a laptop and you won’t be disappointed.

Price at time of publish: from $379

Display Size: 10.9 inches | Weight: 1.14 pounds | Operating System: Chrome OS | Battery Life: up to 10 hours | Storage: 128GB | RAM: 4GB

Best Apple

Apple MacBook Air M2

Apple MacBook Air M2

Amazon

Why We Love It: Slimmer (0.44 inches) and lighter (2.7 pounds) than its predecessor, this sleek new model offers an upgraded 1080p webcam and better-quality audio.

What to Consider: It only supports one external screen, there are still only 2 USB-C ports, and the display notch may obstruct your view of the menu bar.

If you’re an Apple loyalist who has a little extra cash to spend on the brand’s latest and greatest, then the Apple MacBook Air with the M2 Chip (2022) should top your list. Not only is the design sleeker, but it's supercharged by the highly anticipated M2 chip — it’s up to 1.4 times faster than the M1 model. Plus, the Liquid Retina display is the biggest and brightest ever on a MacBook Air, with support for a mind-blowing 1 billion colors. When it’s time for video conferences, you’ll be seen and heard loud and clear with the 1080p FaceTime HD camera and three-mic array that captures clean audio.

Price at time of publish: from $1,199

Display Size: 13.6 inch | Weight: 2.7 pounds  | Operating System: macOS  | Battery Life: up to 18 hours | Storage: up to 2TB | RAM: up to 24GB

Best Windows

Acer Swift 5

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Why We Love It: This Windows laptop is lightweight, looks great, and has plenty of speed for maximum productivity. 

What to Consider: The dual speaker system falls a bit flat and the touchpad is small, which may leave larger hands feeling cramped.

This powerful-yet-lightweight laptop travels well and looks great (hello, aerospace-grade aluminum chassis with a luxurious double-anodized gold treatment!) — but there’s plenty more that makes this machine worth consideration. Dual fans keep it cool to the touch and the bright display has thin bezels with a 16:10 aspect ratio for an impressive viewing area. You’ll find all the essential ports (two USB-C, an HDMI, and a USB-A) onboard, and with just 30 minutes of charging you’ll enjoy four hours of battery life.  

Price at time of publish: from $1,500

Display Size: 14 inch | Weight: 2.31 pounds | Operating System: Windows 11 | Battery Life: up to 10 hours | Storage: 512GB | RAM: 16GB

Best Chrome

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2

4.6
Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2

Best Buy

Why We Love It: At only 0.55 inches thick, this Chromebook fits into practically any travel bag and delivers a powerful processor with Wi-Fi 6 support at a wallet-friendly price.

What to Consider: There’s minimal memory and storage, and a stylus isn’t included. 

As the world’s first QLED Chromebook, Samsung’s Galaxy 2 has a larger-than-life high-definition display with true-to-life colors that dazzle. And feel free to crank up the sound, because the Smart Amp technology can reach levels 179 percent higher than standard laptops. Now that you’re immersed in the scene and sounds, let’s look under the hood — there’s a 10th-generation Intel Core Processor, long battery life, and Wi-Fi 6 GIG+ that’s three times faster than standard. 

Price at time of publish: from $699

Display Size: 13.3 inches | Weight: 2.71 pounds| Operating System: Chrome OS | Battery Life: up to 13 hours | Storage: 64GB | RAM: 8GB

Tips for Buying

Pick one that suits your needs

No matter how good a laptop looks and feels, at the end of the day there’s just one thing that’s crucial to getting your work done efficiently: processing power. If you’re trying to run a web browser, Microsoft Office Suite, and work in large databases at the same time, power is key. But if you’re only bringing a laptop on your travels to check email and watch a movie during your flight, then a vivid display and headphone jack may be your top priority. Also, most people have an operating system (Windows, MacOS, or Chrome OS) they know and love and don’t often veer from what’s comfortable.

Consider size and weight

You’ll want to walk a fine line between having a machine that’s big enough to feel comfortable while you use the keyboard and view the display, but small enough that it makes packing into an already stuffed bag easy. Once you’ve held an ultra-light laptop, anything else is likely to feel heavy and annoying. Generally speaking, the lightest model you can get away with before losing important features (which often diminish with size) is a good choice.

Consider all the internal specs

If you anticipate working all day without access to an outlet or needing your laptop to stay powered up during an overseas flight, then long battery life should be at the top of your wish list. When it comes to RAM, 8GB should suffice for most users, but 16GB or 32GB is better (especially if you’re doing tasks like video editing). And as far as storage, 256GB is a good minimum threshold, unless you plan on storing everything in the cloud or an external hard drive. 

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Are smaller laptops more expensive?

    They certainly can be, though it’s not always the case. This phenomenon is largely due to the engineering effort that goes into internal construction and manufacturing to fit everything into a smaller footprint. Another possible reason is because larger laptops are more common, and smaller ones are less so — a classic supply and demand play.

  • Why should I choose a small laptop over a tablet?

    Sure, tablets are less expensive and smaller and lighter than any laptop, but they aren’t interchangeable products. Tablets have limitations, and if you’re doing work, then you need things like an integrated keyboard and trackpad — you’ll only find these on a laptop. There’s also the issue of some software not being compatible with tablets, not to mention the lack of ports. One solution that may work is a 2-in-1 model, which some say offers the best of both worlds.  

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

For this article, T+L contributor Jill Schildhouse used research and personal experience with travel tech to compile a list of the very best laptops for travel.

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